orchid-the-zodiac-sessionsIf “ability to worship Black Sabbath” and “power to ignore the last 40 years as though it never happened” was the scoring system on this site then Orchid would be getting a straight ten. Short of having Ozzy Osbourne singing, this is well and truly frolicking in Sab-land. Not that the band is a mindless rip-off by any means – there are song writing skills on show here that I suspect Tony Iommi and crew would have been only too pleased to have on board when dysfunctional inspiration was giving way to disharmony. Yes, Orchid is a little better than a mere tribute. In fact, they’re slicker than a Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. I would even go as far as to say that, even if you find the whole Black Sabbath-worship is wearing thin and, like me, find the endless 70s revival a bit of a bore, then you might yet still appreciate Orchid’s psychedelic doom rock charms.

First let’s just define where we are starting here. If you are going to expect my indulgence for producing something that frankly, could have been released in 1973 then it better be good. ‘Being a good heavy metal band’ is more what we’re about here and, luckily, quality scores points, derivative or not. True, it is something of a game with the band to name which songs from Sabbath’s first four albums is being artfully ‘acknowledged’ on each track. But the undeniable fact is that Orchid’s quality shines through pretty much the whole way through on tracks like ‘He Who Walks Alone’, ‘Black Funeral’ and ‘Electric Father’ (don’t deny it – you are playing the game already…). In fact, even when you thought you had tracks pinned down beyond doubt (ok, I’ll give you He Who Walks Alone – Iron Man), the band has a habit of weaving in a riff construction from Black Sabbath here and drum pattern from Sleeping Village there just to throw you off your stride. There really are few weak tracks here. Orchid don’t really do ‘weak’. The consistency is pretty astounding given the brand’s influences rank one band’s catalogue between 1970 and 1973. There is a definite Led Zep-style, rock influence on tracks like ‘No One Makes a Sound’ that sheds a bit of full-beam, Robert Plant energy on some of the tracks and relives the occasional crushing melancholy of Sabbath.

That is probably helped along by the vocals of Theo Mindell who respectfully and wisely resists the temptation to try to imitate Ozzy and instead thrown his more than capable chords into doing his own thing, shifting every track into a slightly different sphere. But it isn’t that alone that keeps the whole thing fresh. Orchid may be standing on the shoulders of giants but they are clearly capable of standing alone judging by what they have achieved. But they prefer instead to follow their calling and prove that, while you may have thought all the best riffs have been written by Tony and crew, there are still a a few diamonds in the well trodden rough that have been missed along the way. How long this can last before the well of influence runs completely dry, or the stunning achievement that someone can sound so similar to Black Sabbath but still sound so good, begins to wear off is the unknown factor.

I also think reproducing the first EP and the first full-length on this, which is basically a reissue of those two releases from 2009 and 2011, is a little unnecessary. Both Through The Devil’s Doorway and Capricorn are pretty widely available through the usual retail sources around the internet. I suppose label politics, one way or another, sometimes demand such things from a band and it’s a fairly common event these days. Either way, for new fans looking for a new twist on the Sabbath legacy or just a decent band playing heavy, doomy, 70’s metal then look no further. Zodiac Sessions is just you, four guys from California and a 65 minute time-warp for you to enjoy.

(7/10 Reverend Darkstanley)